and the Live Sex Show
Panama Red Plays Roosendaal
to Amsterdam, Buffy
Excerpt from Panama's
Amsterdam Book "Blues from a Brown Cafe"
JOHNNY BRAVO AND
THE MEMPHIS MUMBLE
Amsterdam, Feb 4,
2001 -- The other day I say in my best Johnny Bravo voice: "Hey
Mama, why don't we hit the cultural high spots today?" Chicks
dig that highbrow stuff. "Because there are people there who
say 'Hey Mama'," she replies. And she's probably right. New
blip on MY cultural screen anyway is Johnny Bravo, a humanoid character
on the Cartoon Network, whom I've begun to watch with my four-year-old
granddaughter the nuclear physicist.
Johnny is, if you haven't caught his act, the personification of
bumbling narcissism whose major motivators are food and babes, in
whatever order. So naturally I think he's cool. And while you should
catch a bit of it if you haven't, we're yawing a little to port
here. Since we're going to be talking about currents of one kind
and another, let's get out in midstream.
Johnny's speech pattern,
Hey Mama and all, is drawn from one of his implicit heroes, and
ours as well, the reluctant King: Elvis. And on the tip of everyone's
hypothalamus or whatever these days is "Hey Mama" and
a dozen other co-dependent words and phrases that taken in their
entirety are the subtextual foundations of a zeitgeist not only
immense in its presence but immeasurable in its influence. Ahem.
The Memphis Mumble IS
America to much of the world and maybe to us as well. I cannot count
the times I've heard "thankyou.thankyouverymuch" here
in Amsterdam. I'm sure without checking that my friend Keith Glass
in Australia hears it often as well. Probably more. That Southerners
drawl is a given in popular concept everywhere, but the truth is
that up and down the River, from New Orleans to above St Louis,
bayou patois and East St Louis jive have many more beats per minute
than the speech patterns of Atlanta. Or Dallas. Or New York City.
Speak two hundred eighty syllables in one minute. Now mumble. Now
let the final syllable fall into nothing. WelcometoMelmphihhh. The
Mumble's impact on the stream we call Americana is largely due,
of course, to Elvis. His speedboat thru life threw a wide and high
roostertail that twenty-five years after his passing still is a
trough only beginning to fill back in, while its wake is constantly
reflected back from the strangers on the shore that are us all.
Speech patterns come
and go. Like heroes. I once knew a guy whose manner of speaking
was so infectious that anyone who knew him longer than a week began
to talk like him. And cultural impacts, though their
progenitors may pass into time, continue to repercuss infinitely.
In the currents of Johnny Bravo, RayBan sunglasses, turned-up collars,
retro sideburns, and uncountable others, including the treacherous
shallows of Hard Rock Cafes around the globe ("The music that
made Elvis famous!The food that made him fat!") the riverboat
Memphis Mumble and the baled culture it transports will continue
to ply the River for untold more seasons.
Elvis will be leaving
the building for some time to come.